The BRITS 2019 – the Least Inspired Year Yet?

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If you watched ‘The BRITS are coming’ nomination announcement show on ITV, you’ll have seen host Clara Amfo introduce the best male and female solo artists as though they were continuations of a train of phenomenal previous winners, the best of British; including Amy Winehouse, Adele, Ed Sheeran, and David Bowie. In an interview mid-way, George Ezra described the BRITS as the ‘world cup of music’, alluding to everything it isn’t – a fair contest amongst up-and-coming contestants to decide the best of the best, or more importantly, in any way uncertain until the final moments as to who will win.

Considering the BRITS proclaim their nominations to be based on the opinions of over 1,000 ‘music enthusiasts’, the nominee list for the upcoming awards night feels as though it were compiled with the least enthusiasm possible. Particularly in the case of the British nominations, judges seem to have opted for the safest bets, and at this point resembles just the Official UK Top 40.

Image via Dua Lipa on YouTube

When my flatmates and I discussed the BRITS, we decided to bet on who would win each award, and quickly found we couldn’t. In almost every case who we each thought would win massively overlapped. For instance, Dua Lipa with four nominations is guaranteed at least one, and likely two wins.

The lack of inspiration is considerably more apparent when following on from the excellence – and crucially, uncertainty – of BRITS 2018. It really wasn’t certain; who would take home British Group? The powerhouse of Royal Blood? The gorgeous, haunting tones of The XX? Wolf Alice was in no way a sure win, and in fact a surprise to many – because not only were the acts so evenly matched, but showed so much variety, from across multiple genres, styles, and audiences. The nominations collectively represented that year of music, and the same can be said for every category of that awards night. When compared to say, this year’s British Single nominations, where half of them were released in April and May 2018, it appears closer to a ‘hits of the summer’ playlist than a varied or well-considered aggregation of British music.

What results is a compilation of utterly dull, uninspired noms that probably took only seconds of consideration. If you haven’t yet seen who is nominated, you really don’t need to – take a second to guess, and it’s exactly who you’d expect.

Has any single nomination for the BRITS tapped into the same zeitgeist, or had the same effect on pop culture as, say, Childish Gambino with ‘This Is America’? (Ignoring the fact that he somehow doesn’t see an international nomination.) True, the BRITS is not supposed to be about who makes the biggest political splash – nor does music necessarily have to purvey any sort of proper message to be good. But, will this year’s event have anything even coming close to Stormzy’s iconic Grenfell moment? This is partially due to the fairly standard acts lined up – including George Ezra and Rag’n’Bone man – but mainly due to the fact that as far as the British nominations are concerned, each winner will be announced to not an ounce of surprise or shock. Not one subversive British artist is nominated – yet alone set to win.

Image via Billboard

To clarify, my complaints are not really with the quality of the artists themselves. Each and every one deserves to be there; Jess Glynne has more number one singles than any other British female solo artists, and many artists hold multiple previous nominations or wins. At the end of the day, awards ceremonies are supposed, in part, to represent what is popular, and it cannot be contested that the nominees are popular – six of The Gryphon’s Top 10 Albums of 2018 are represented at the awards.

My gripes do end however with the international nominations. The winner is not a guarantee and represent a quality variety in music and audience for what has been a great year for music. International Male – with Drake, Eminem, Shawn Mendes, Travis Scott and Kamasi Washington nominated – could really be anyone’s game. Whilst International Female likely points to a win for Ariana Grande (but really, who can deny her that), co-runners Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Christine and the Queens and Camila Cabello represent a plethora of talents who do stand a decent chance.

It is worth highlighting though, something the BRITS 2019 has done really well this year – we see a bettering representation of LGBTQ+ acts with some of the biggest community icons, including Sam Smith and Janelle Monáe, and following on from Dua Lipa’s 2018 cry for ‘more women on these stages…winning awards…taking over the world’; we see empowering women in the likes of Little Mix, hailed by many as a feminist icon for younger generations, standing as lone women against four male British groups. There is a question, however, as to whether the BRITS are promoting progression or merely reflecting an increasingly diverse artist base in popular music.

The question really has to be the purpose of a televised awards night in which everyone already knows who will win.

The BRITS awards will be held on the 20th February, 2019.

Tom Poole

Header image via Brit Awards